The Case of the Art Critic – a Forensix mystery, Part 1 of 7

I knew as soon as I entered the art studio why I had been called there. The body lay near the window surrounded by crumpled balls of paper, empty pizza boxes, and bottles of some energy drink. An easel was knocked over, pencils scattered everywhere. The half done drawing was soaking up blood and no longer made sense to me – assuming it ever would have. Artists.

Looking around the rest of the room, I saw three other easels that were still standing upright. Each work was in a different medium and style. Canvases were leaned haphazardly against the walls and drawings in varying stages of completion were pinned to the walls. I estimated at least six others used this space.

I turned my attention at last to the one who had summoned me here. “Hello, Lord Neon.” He was thin and of average height but he had presence and could fill a space when he so desired. I certainly would get out of his way.

Neon had been staring out the window past the body. I’m sure he had noticed the moment I’d entered; his twin shadows certainly had. They were constantly scanning the area for threats, their dark suits matching the shadows and making them hard to notice unless they wanted to you to see them.

He turned towards me, his orange hair glimmering in the morning light. “Lady Forensix. Thank you for arriving swiftly. What do you think?” He waived a hand at the body, his electric blue eyes watching me.

I looked at the body again. “I’ll need to have my team go over the place thoroughly first, but I think it’s safe to say that pry bar is the cause of death.” The iron bar was lying on the ground near the victim’s head, the blood soaked paper partially covering it. “Any ideas about motives, suspects?”

Neon gave a half shrug, his black wool coat rustling with the movement. “Isn’t that your job?” His half smile suggested he knew more than he was saying.

I ran a hand through my short gray hair. “I suppose… wait. Did you call me Lady? Did I miss a memo?”

Shaking my head slightly, I opened my trench coat pockets so my team could get to work. The evidence gatherers jumped down and started sifting for clues, bagging anything they thought might be relevant – which meant most things were being stuffed into bags, labeled, and put away for later analysis. The diminutive creatures resembled stick figures made of tweezers and magnifying glasses. My notepad hovered over the scene, ready to write down any observations I might make while it supervised the clue collection and sketched the scene.

Neon watched the team work. “You have them and you answer to me.” He seemed to feel that was explanation enough for my ‘promotion’.

“I see,” though I really didn’t. I preferred being a minor character in this City; it made my job easier. “And which side am I on?”

Neon chuckled. “I thought you had jurisdiction over both the Uptown and Downtown sides of the City.

I nodded. “So long as you and everyone else understands that.

I knelt down to study the pry bar before it was collected. It seemed to be an ordinary iron bar with only a slight glow of magical residue. It could be contamination from the blood, pixie dust, or remnants of a spell. Straightening, I looked out of the corner of my eye at the room so I could study the human side of it. There was one in the room now, hunched over her easel and twisting her mouth as she focused on inking a page. She seemed oblivious to the small creatures watching her work, even when one would snatch a pencil or move her ink well slightly.

“Mark down the human as a low level suspect. I don’t think she even sees us.” The words appeared in the notepad. An evidence gatherer handed me up a fingerprint match on the pry bar. I read it then showed it to Neon.

Neon sighed as he put on his sunglasses. “I broke up a fight two nights ago between some Art Fey and the Dumpster Bogey. He claimed he was just defending some Graffiti Gremlins.” He started for the door. “Look into it. I don’t need any more fuel for the battle between the Uptown and Downtown Fey right now.”

I waited for him to leave before I muttered under my breath, “Great. Now he wants me to prevent a war.”

I scowled at Notepad as it scrawled the message, Just the facts.

“I know, I know. I’ll do my job and let Lord Neon do his. Let’s see if any of these other Art Fey know anything.”

I decided to start with a vermilion paint pixie that was trying to take a paintbrush from one of the evidence gatherers. This pixie was only slightly larger than the gatherer and one solid color. Like many of the minor fey, she had only the suggestion of a figure and face. I cleared my throat. “Excuse me.”

The pixie glared at me. “Tell it to let go! This is my brush!”

I waved the gatherer off. It harrumphed at us then stalked off after a stray leaf. I said, “Sorry about that. They can be a bit enthusiastic at times. Could you answer a few questions about…” pointed over to the body.

The pixie turned a shade darker. “Tsk. Such a mess. There’s a reason why I don’t hang out in this art nest. Mine has a better view.” She pointed up over the desk of the human artist.

“Very nice. What would the reason be?”

She swirled the brush around between her hands. “Have you seen the art they produce over here?”

I closed my eyes for a moment then asked, “So he was killed by an art critic?”

“Could have been. I don’t know. We were out at an opening at the time. He didn’t go because he thought the art was pretentious and…”

I cut her off, not in the mood for a lecture. “So he was here alone? When did you last see him?”

She looked at me as if I were a total bore. “Yesterday afternoon. We found him when we returned and sent for Lord Neon. Perhaps he’ll finally do something about that Downtown riff raff.”

“Thank you. I may drop by your nest later if I have more questions.”

She dove after another paintbrush. “Whatever. We have another opening tonight.”

The story from the other Art Fey was the same. They were more interested in talking about the opening or commenting on the human artist’s work than in their dead companion. Even those from his Nest didn’t seem too worried about it. I guess they had short attention spans.

I took a last look around the room then held open my pocket for the evidence gathers to jump back in along with their bags of clues. Hopefully there was something useful in there somewhere. I sealed the nest before leaving. Minor fairies wouldn’t be able to get in and I’d know immediately if anyone else entered. The fairies pestering the human looked up at the wards then moved to other Art Fey Nests stashed here and there around the human’s studio.

copyright 2014 by Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved